BLACKSBURG, Va.– The first full day of the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium has come to an end and even though I have not been able to cull my photos and edit my video, there is at least time for a moment to reflect on some of things I learned.
First and foremost, Virginia Tech is an awesome campus! Growing up three hours away from here in Richmond, I had this image of a place I now know as the New River Valley that was a big deserted campus in the middle of nowhere.
One of the first newspaper stories I published while in high school was a Richmond News Leader feature on a girl from my church who came here to Tech and hated it transferring to another college. I saw this campus through her bad experience. (The Richmond News Leader is no longer published, but the story in the YOUNG VIRGINIANS section of the paper is memorable.
As a child, I learned Virginia Tech’s real was Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. I learned why my parents would call it V.P.I.
That was 25 or more years ago. So much has changed, not the least of which were the events of April 16, 2007, which is a day most Americans will never forget– the day Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before taking his own life.
Tech’s PR Man Talks
Tonight, the man at the center of managing the hordes of media who took over this campus spoke about the incident to those of us attending the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium.
He told the story of the “insatiable demand for information that he couldn’t meet” as hundreds of satellite trucks, scores of news crews sought to cover this biggest incidence of violence on a U.S. college campus in the history of nation.
While there have been other campus shootings since the one here in 2007 at Northern Illinois and at University of Alabama at Huntsville, this one represented a turning point.
This one has made Larry Hincker a much sought-after speaking around the world as a expert on campus notification systems and crisis management in the face of unbelievable tragedy.
This Week’s Court Case
Our AEJMC Southeast Colloquium just so happens to coincide with a wrongful death trial that is underway here in Montgomery County Circuit court.
In the case brought by the families of two students killed five years ago next month, the plaintiffs claim university officials delayed warning the campus of the initial two shootings on campus and then attempted to cover up their missteps.
Wisdom From One Who Knows
In his speech tonight, Hincker talked in great detail about what his role was as the chief communicator of information both to the media and those internally about what was going on this campus.
He talked about the use of the World Wide Web as both a “nexus of communication” and “filebox” for statements and communiques released on a constantly changing story.
He showed graphics of the spike in traffic on the Virginia Tech Web site on both the day of the April 16, 2007 shootings and more recently on December 8, 2011 when an officer was shot and killed here on this campus.
Other key points from Hincker’s remarks tonight:
- Universities ought to provide media training for student leaders
- No Single Notification System Does It All
- Don’t Let Your Local Media Play Second Fiddle to the National Media